The following citation was given for John Kirkpatrick at his gold badge award ceremony, at Sidmouth International Festival, 7th Aug 2003, by Eddie Upton.
Gold Badge Citation for John Kirkpatrick
The greatest honour that the English Folk Dance and Song Society can confer is the award of its Gold Badge. It is awarded for outstanding services to folk music.
Over the years, the Badge has been awarded to a dazzling array of upholders of the English tradition: collectors, composers, academics, musicians, singers and dancers. Just a brief look at some of the people who have been awarded the Gold Badge will give some indication of the esteem in which it is held. They have included Bob Cann, the Copper family, Reg Hall, Fred Hamer, Douglas and Helen Kennedy, Fred Jordan, William Kimber, A L Lloyd, Ewan McColl, Peggy Seeger, Cecil Sharp, Francis Shergold, Ralph Vaughan Williams and the Watersons. Tonight, John Kirkpatrick joins that extraordinary and illustrious company.
John was born in London in 1947, into a family that loved music and still enjoyed sing-songs round the piano at parties. His father played the fiddle, like his Scottish uncles had done. His mother played piano, and accompanied her father, who had a wonderful tenor voice and had sung in the chorus in some West End shows. Young John sang in choirs at church and school, and played recorder and piano.
In 1959 the local church started a country dance group. The whole family went along, but John (aged 12) was not too keen on holding girls' hands.
Hugh Rippon started a morris team for all the lads who attended the group. Encouraged by the fact that one poor soul got a broken finger at the first practice John decided that this was much more like it. This new team was The Hammersmith Morris Men.
In 1961 John bought his first melodeon. This turned out well except for the fact that it was in Band C, whilst every-one else was playing in G and D. So in January 1963, Brian Heaton took John to Bell Accordions in Surbiton and helped him choose his own small three-row button accordion. He played this instrument for the next thirty-five years until it failed its MOT! Nothing is built to last!
From small beginnings - playing for morris dancing, country dancing and dance workshops in London - John started to widen his experience. He soon became Squire of Hammersmith Morris. He played in various folk dance bands, including leading his own Dingle's Chillybom Band. He bought the Folk Songs of Britain series of LP's and learned every song on them. His parents bought him an anglo concertina for his 21st birthday. He turned professional in 1970.
A collaboration with Ashley Hutchings led to a folk rock morris dance record, Morris On, released in 1972. This led to The Albion Country Band and another dance record, The Compleat Dancing Master. With The Albion Band, he worked at The National Theatre. He played on Richard Thompson's first solo album, and went on to work with him for the next 20 years or so.
His partnership with Sue Harris took him to many folk clubs and festivals across Britain. They made five albums together and played in the new Albion Country Band. They soon became involved in the new wave of English Country Music, based on dynamic, traditional styles, and were part of the dance band Umps & Dumps.
One of their most important and innovative initiatives came when they moved to Shropshire. The Shropshire Bedlams and Martha Rhoden's Tuppenny Dish were to become the most revolutionary morris teams of their day. They were the first groups to tour as companion teams of men and women, each playing for the other. They were the first to explore exclusively the local version of morris dancing, Border Morris. It was very > popular, very widely copied, and is still going strong.
John became involved in a number of seminal partnerships. He worked with Martin Carthy, and together they joined Steeleye Span. They formed Brass Monkey, which started in the early 1980's and is still touring.
John's theatre work grew, particularly with The Victoria Theatre in North Staffordstilire. He set up his own band, The John Kirkpatrick Band. He presented his own radio series on Radio 2. He is now as busy as ever, working largely as a solo artist, with a lot of teaching thrown in. He still plays for village dances in Shropshire.
John Kirkpatrick is the complete folk artist, and an example to everyone who hears him. He is a supreme musician, a wonderful singer, an inspirational teacher and workshop leader, a fabulous dancer, and, in my opinion, one of the finest songwriters, composers and arrangers of English folk music. At the end of this concert you will experience what is perhaps his most stunning achievement to date - his collaboration with Folk South West and Gina Le Faux in creating the groundbreaking Fanfare for the South West. I feel immensely proud to stand on this stage and pay this tribute to someone for whom this award means so much. There could be no worthier recipient of the Society's Gold Badge than John Kirkpatrick.
EFDSS Members' Quarterly Newsletter Vol 65 No 3 Autumn 2003